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Humanist Archives: April 20, 2022, 7:27 a.m. Humanist 35.659 - 'as if' to 'is'

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 659.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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    [1]    From: Dino Buzzetti <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is' (102)

    [2]    From: Robert Royar <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is' (21)

    [3]    From: maurizio lana <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is' (26)

        Date: 2022-04-19 13:30:02+00:00
        From: Dino Buzzetti <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is'

Dear Willard,

Yes, again, this is just as much a crucial question on the relation
between the human mind and its technological prostheses, and
please allow me, again, to make some observations.

In all of them I refer to the developments of cybernetics. The
aforesaid relation can be seen both from a subjective and an
objective point of view. I find very illuminating, about that, the
contention of Merleau-Ponty, who argues against the idea of an
absolute separation between subject and object in themselves :

> ...what begins as a thing ends as consciousness of the thing,
> what begins as a “state of consciousness” ends as a thing...‘’
> *The visible and the invisible* [1964], Evanston 1968, p. 215.

The relation of the objective and the subjective is accordingly
one of mutual and continual supervenience or ”encroachment
of the one upon the other" (47). M-P. uses the word *empiètement*,
which originally means ‘trespassing’ or ‘usurpation’. In other
words, both the subject (the human mind) and the object (the
technological machine) can be seen alternatively and recursively
from an objective and a subjective point of view. If you see the
relation between our mind and the computer objectively your
stance is that of dealing with an ”observed system”, if you see it
subjectively you are dealing with an ”observing system”—which
is precisely the distinction between 1st- and 2nd-order cybernetics.

The lapse from ”as if it WERE” to ”it IS” the case, is an inadvertent
shift from a consciously subjective, to an unaware objective point
of view.

An observed system is dealt with as a deterministic system with
fixed rules. an observing system—such as in quantum mechanics
a system taking into account the relation between the observer
and the observed—has rules that can modify other rules on the
ground of new observed data.

This is relevant to the design of Humanities Computing applications,
for an observing system is a reflexive one and cannot be designed
exclusively in terms of first-order logic. It requires a higher-order
logic and a two tiered form of computation as in ‘ logical frameworks’
or in hypercomputation (see, for instance, Françoise Chatelins’
*Qualitative Computing*).

Yours,       -dino

On Tue, 19 Apr 2022 at 08:51, Humanist <> wrote:

>               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 658.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                       Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2022-04-19 05:06:09+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: 'as-if' to 'is'
> Thanks to Dino Buzzetti for the downgrading of my dangerous cliff to a
> gentler slope in Humanist 35.653. What I took Gerard to be complaining
> about, however, stirs a different question than the reliability of
> computational systems -- a very important matter to be sure. My interest
> is in the often rather sudden and mostly unnoticed shift from
> subjunctive to indicative, the change from treating an idea or construct
> AS IF it were something to regarding it as being that thing. Modelling
> provides many examples. We begin e.g. by noticing that a digital machine
> serves as quite a good model for the brain -- storage as if it were
> biological memory, for example. Then we just call it 'memory'.
> One way of regarding this shift that I can think of is as a fatal cliff,
> a sudden loss of a profound difference--in this case, the complexity of
> remembering. The other way is to 'stretch' the term 'memory' to cover the
> digital analogue, so 'memory' becomes a bigger idea. Still, I'd think,
> awareness of difference is absolutely key.
> Forgetting difference seems to me a chronic condition with regards to
> the digital machine.
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

Dino Buzzetti
Formerly: Department of Philosophy, University of Bologna
Currently: Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII, Bologna

        Date: 2022-04-19 12:18:58+00:00
        From: Robert Royar <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is'

I cannot help but remember Camillo's memory theatre when imagining the
physical computer's memory, for, as a child (and ever since) I have placed
events in my life, stories told to me, ones I have read within a running
set of images situated in real places I saw. My grandfather's stories of
the "rivers of blood" in the trenches of the War to End All Wars are near a
sink hole in a woods at the end of the street where I lived from age 2 to 4
(1958-1960). The story of desert wandering learned in religion was the
field in front of my uncle's dairy barn. So many memories I stored that
way. It wasn't until late in my undergraduate course in psycholinguistics
that I discovered this was actually a technique t=for memory organization.
Later I discovered that rhetoricians used the technique to remember
speeches they were to deliver (such as in the Roman Senate). Memory is an
implicative ligature regardless of the domain where it is interrogated:
computers, brains, rubber, hysteresis.

               Robert Delius Royar
 Caught in the net since 1985

        Date: 2022-04-19 09:40:37+00:00
        From: maurizio lana <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.658: 'as if' to 'is'

Forgetting difference seems to me a chronic condition with regards to
the digital machine.

could we see it as if one took a metaphor for a factual description?

metaphors works in the hiatus between the thing and its
but there are situations where "staying in the hiatus" implies a
cognitive fatigue,
while exchanging the metaphor for a fact makes everything easier.

part of this "staying in the hiatus" is permanently taking care for
the exact meaning of words
and concepts. i think that the risk of forgetting difference is a
chronic condition for the culture as a whole and that being a
"person of culture" is also expressed in the capacity of seeing,
looking for, taking care of, the differences.

Maurizio Lana
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
Università del Piemonte Orientale
piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli
tel. +39 347 7370925

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